Route 66 is truncated, broken, resurfaced, and resigned. The motels with garish neon that once cast a colorful glow across the black pavement are now empty shells where only the wild things find shelter from the wind and the night. Trees and weeds fill the parking lots where tri-tone Desoto sedans, Ford convertibles, and Hudson Hornets with licence plates from Nebraska and Arizona, Wyoming and New York once simmered in the summer sun while their road weary owners flirted with waitress and revived themselves with steaming cups of coffee and fresh pie in cafes that are now picturesque ruins.
But in Pontiac and Cuba, Kingman and Rialto, in little towns all along the old highway once signed with a shield and two sixes, in places that the world has passed by, the hand of time has been stopped and then turned back by people like Connie Echols and Sam Frisher, Kumar Patel and Laurel Kane, and their families. Through them the spirit of Route 66 lives on and through those who seek its wonders, its lost treasures, and its special places that spirit is nurtured. The venerable old El Trovatore Motel that dates to 1939 has seen better times. Just as with a weary old veteran, the scars offer mute testimony to a long waged battle with changing times that has been lost. This, however, is an illusion. This old motel is on Route 66, a land of magic where the past, present, and future blend together seamlessly. This is the storied land where dreams come true, the fountain of youth pours forth waters that restore, and the past intrudes into the present with wild abandon. At the El Trovatore Motel it began with the restoration of a block of rooms that included preservation of orignal tiles and fixtures. Then came the restoration of the vintage sign that had once cast its glow across Route 66 under a starry desert sky. Then, on March 30, 2012, in a blaze of neon glory, the world of the 1940s burst into the 21st century as the El Trovatore tower cast its glow across its rocky perch and the motel below for the first time in almost a half century. The El Trovatore Motel is rising as a Phoenix from the ashes, it is again welcoming the weary traveler motoring west and east on legendary Route 66 and it will soon be the destination resort that it once was. For more information, to book a room and contribute to breathing new life into another landmark, or to be swept into the vision and dream of Sam or Monica call them at 928-753-6520. As a bonus, the room rate includes breakfast for two at the nearby Hot Rod Cafe.
Just as they did in 1955, both signs for the El Trovatore Motel again greet west bound travelers on Route 66.
The El Trovatore Motel is but one manifestation of Route 66 as an elixir, a tonic that restores youth and inspires dreams. In Needles, California, Ed Klien of the Route 66 World group has been assisting the owners of the historic 66 Motel, now an apartment complex, in the refurbishment of their classic sign and is seeking assistance. Here is another opportunity to join the Route 66 community and lend a hand in the turning back of time. All along America’s most famous highway, the curtain that separates the past from the present has worn quite thin allowing what once was to appear as new. In Rialto it is the Wigwam Motel and in Tucumcari, the Blue Swallow Motel and Motel Safari. In Cuba it is the Wagon Wheel Motel and in Carthage, the Boots Motel. In Litchfield it is the Ariston Cafe and in Atlanta, the Palms Grill. Now, in Kingman, it is the El Trovatore Motel.
With the doom, gloom, and tragedy exploited for political gain that comes with an election cycle it can be a challenge to find a bright ray of hope to light the darkness. So, my suggestion is to turn to Route 66 as that seems to be front and center in the good news department.
Storage depot at the former Kingman Army Airfield after World War II (courtesy KAA museum)
Ron Warnick at Route 66 Newsrecently reported on an impressive economic study pertaining to tourism along Route 66 that is making some waves and garnering international attention. Then, just in case you still have doubts about Route 66 being the last bastion of mom and pop enterprise, or it being a key component in the transformation and renovation of communities along this storied highway, take a look at this story about Pontiac, Illinois that also appeared in Route 66 News.
Here in my corner of Route 66 land, the darkness is about to be pushed back by the relighting of the neon on the historic El Trovatore Motel tower. I spoke with Sam, the owner, this morning and his plan is to test the refurbished neon this evening. Rest assured, I will be there as this will be the first time in more than a half century that there will be colorful glow emanating from that rocky knoll along old Route 66.
Another bright spot on the horizon stems from my plan to finish the feature about the history of the Kingman Army Airfield for 66 The Mother Roadthis weekend. I hope this story will spark some interest in this obscure chapter in Route 66 history and shine the light on the fledgling Kingman Army Airfield Museum.
I should note that the museum located in the Kingman industrial park at the site of the old airfield are changing. They are now open on Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
This photo supplied by the museum shows the field after the war when it served as a storage depot. Imagine, in late 1946 the largest concentration of military aircraft in the world were lined up along Route 66.
Another bright ray of sunshine is to be found in the annual Route 66 Fun Run. In a recent conversation with the organizers I was left with the impression that indications are that this may the biggest event to date. And, for the second year in a row, there will be a sizable international presence at the event as Dale Butel of Route 66 Tours from Brisbane, Australia has included it in his spring tour.
In a nut shell, my advice to those who are becoming increasingly nauseated by the stench emanating from the seemingly endless Republican primary or the Democratic push to create an us versus them spectacle, take to the highway that is best …
I had a brief meeting this morning with Joshua Noble, the local tourism director, that was quite interesting and exciting. It would seem that we are on the cusp of a new era along Route 66 in Arizona.
Chadwick Drive (Route 66) in Kingman
Modern technology is adding a new dimension to the Route 66 adventure in the form of geocahing. As a state centennial project Mr. Noble has been spearheading the creation of a linear geocache program that will follow Route 66 from border to border. His enthusiasm for the project was almost enough to inspire me to take another step into the 21st century. My new side job (research followed by the writing of catalog entries for Auctions America kicked into high gear last night. To be honest I was unsure what exactly to expect from this assignment but my uneducated guess was a touch of boredom. In actuality it is rather interesting. Before writing the catalog entry I must first decipher vehicle identification numbers, paint codes, and decide what are correct factory options and what has been added after the fact. It is also rather fast paced, which may be a bit of a problem. Yesterday afternoon I received ten assignments with a deadline of Wednesday morning (as in this morning)! Another deadline looming on the horizon is the one for 66 The Mother Road. For this issue I am writing a brief history of the Kingman Army Airfield, the auxiliary field at Yucca that later became the Ford proving ground where the 1955 Thunderbird was tested, and what visitors on site today. I have been chomping at the bit for a show of spring flowers that will serve as the catalyst for the next little adventure, a road trip east along Route 66 to gather photos for the forthcoming exhibit at the Powerhouse Visitor Center and to clock some mileages for the guide book that is in the works. An exciting aspect of this is an invitation from John McNulty at Grand Canyon Caverns to explore an early alignment with bridge east of the caverns. To date the new year has been sort of like riding on the Ferris Wheel without pants – there have been ups, downs, and a whole lot of trying to cover my …. Of course in my world this is situation normal. April is shaping up to be the big one, at least until May. Until further notice I am on a six day work schedule at the day job, I now have a night job, there is the federal jury duty selection that was postponed from February that could necessitate my being in Prescott for several days, a hearing on my mothers estate, taxes, a badly needed bathroom remodel to complete (as soon as I start on it), an eagerly anticipated lunch meeting with Dale Butel of Route 66 Tours headquartered in Australia, and, if by chance I get bored, continuation of the negotiations for the next book contract. I am always fascinated to hear people talk of killing time or being bored. The concept intrigues me. Perhaps it is because the last time I was bored Jimmy Carter was in the White House, or was it Gerald Ford –
Counted among the many challenges we humans face is the ability to free the mind from the confines of conformity to unleash some independent thinking. If we design a motor vehicle it must have two or four wheels. Why? Why not three or six? If we design a home it must be rectangular with square rooms. Why? Why not a dome or a cave or a converted grain silo or a …?
A four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering Jeep prototype built by Checker.
I suppose it was my fascination for independent thinking that led to me becoming enamored with the infancy of the American auto industry and the free thinkers that roamed unfettered during this age of giants. Ralph Teetor, a blind inventor created cruise control – in the 1930s. John Walter Christie designed and raced front-wheel drive, V4 powered cars – in 1903. Milton Reeves built the ungainly, and exceedingly odd and impractical eight-wheeled Octauto in 1910. To date, my contributions to the pantheon of free thinkers has been rather limited. With my books and photography I have encouraged more than a few adventuresome souls to take to the road less traveled. Perhaps, through this blog and on line rantings in various public forums such as Facebook, I may have influenced one or two to break the chains and banish television from their home. I might have also been influential in the decision made by a few daring young motorists to rediscover old technologies, as well as the fun of driving, by purchasing a Studebaker Lark, AMC Rambler, or similar contraption. If so, I am both pleased and humbled. It is not often we can make far reaching contributions to the advancement of society. For me independent, unorthodox, unconventional thinking is as natural as rain. My ma summed it up when she told folks I was born ninety and never seemed to age. Over the years I have found this trait to be both a blessing and a curse. I have also found it to be an almost endless source of fun, excitement, and entertainment.
The manifestations of my free thinking eccentricity have taken on many forms over the years. At the tender age of 18, when everyone I knew was seeking the GTO, Barracuda, Mustang, Charger, Cougar, or Challenger, my mode of transport was a 1964 Rambler American station wagon and a battered old 1942 Chevy pick up truck. I suppose some things never change. Most folks are looking for the shiniest, the fastest, and the newest for their Route 66 adventure. Meanwhile I am in search of something a bit more sedate like a Model A Ford, Hudson Hornet, or Studebaker Scotsman. When everyone applauded the opening of I-40 between Seligman and Kingman, I applauded the emptiness of Route 66 that enabled me to amble along at 45 miles per hour in my 1946 GMC. Of course I was not the visionary that Michael Wallis was and never gave much thought at that time to the fact that there may be others who gleefully would abandon the interstate for the empty two lane. Most authors dream of having their latest book debut in a blaze of glory manifested as a towering pyramid of books in a shop along New York’s Fifth Avenue. I am kicking off the Route 66 encyclopedia at Cuba Fest in Cuba Missouri. When the winds of winter whip the snow, or sand, into a frenzy, tropical beaches often come to mind. Unless of course you happen to be me and then thoughts would turn to someplace like Amboy Crater in the Mojave Desert. If your new to the idea of independent thinking (eccentricity for those who prefer correct terminology) my suggestion is simple. Come on in, the water is fine. And if you have been charting this course for most of the past half century or so, congratulations. I am quite sure that at some point in time, in some forgotten place, our paths will cross and we can compare notes about the joys of a life lived in the shadows of the herd.
This past week has been an interesting blend of frustration that ranged from extreme to mild, anxieties that ran the gamut from near panic to mere apprehension, intermingled with exciting new developments, interesting new projects, and a bit of fun. At this juncture all indications are that the week ahead will continue with this trend. There were a multitude of sources for the frustrations and many of these fueled the ebb and flow of anxiety. Meetings with the tax accountant, initiating the sale of my mothers house that will mark the last chapter in that story, dealing with attorneys to settle the estate, job issues that do little to foster an illusion of longevity in the current career, and the ongoing quest to become a writer and/or photographer when I grow up topped this list. Counted among the more interesting projects this past week was the resurrection of my sons 1978 Olds sedan that has been sequestered for about four years. His little Eclipse and Honda are just a bit small for three children and a wife. So, rather than investing in a minivan he decided that the Olds with just a hair over 50,000 original miles would be a better course of action. Fuel economy is lacking but the money saved by not buying another vehicle should buy a lot of gasoline. Another project that has proved to be rather interesting are attempts to master the intricacies of the new Inspiron from Dell and the wide array of updated featured programs. As the computer I use for writing books and feature articles is almost a decade old, I am left with the sense that the old ’34 Dodge has been traded for a new Dodge Challenger. Among the many nifty new features discovered lurking among the new programs is Chess Titans. Now, my mornings start with a little study, a little meditation, a little exercise, a little correspondence, and a game or two of chess with breakfast. Today, I embarked on two new adventures. Utilizing the radically different word processor on the new magic box I completed my first assignment for Auctions America. Writing concise entries for the auction catalog represents my latest endeavor to knit a wide array of side jobs into an income stream. The first assignment was interesting enough to keep me occupied for two full hours with no sign of boredom. The primary challenge was the research required before the writing of the entries. This required dusting off some of my automotive reference books, deciphering vin numbers, mixed with a bit of Internet sleuthing. Another project being developed this weekend is a feature article about the Kingman Army Airfield for the next issue of 66 The Mother Road. I am quite pleased by this opportunity to introduce Route 66 enthusiasts to an often overlooked chapter in the highways history and a few historic sites worthy of a visit. It may come as a surprise for readers to discover that during the war this was one of the nations largest flexible gunnery schools in the nation. It was also the site of two of the worst training disasters in the history of the Army Air Corp. The first of these occurred on January 6, 1944 when a bus crossed Route 66 from the gunnery range after completion of a series of night exercises and was struck by a fast freight at the railroad crossing in front of the main gate. The death toll from this tragedy included 28 cadets and the driver. A monument listing the names of the dead stands under the original air field tower (one of two remaining in the nation) near the terminal building at the Kingman Airport. My original plan was to start the week off with a photography and research expedition along Route 66 to Ashfork on Monday morning. I was hoping to get some nice spring photos for the forthcoming Route 66 in Mohave County exhibit being developed as a state centennial project for the Powerhouse Visitor Center and gather information for the guidebook to Route 66 from Crookton Road to the Colorado River. A storm with potentially high winds has put that on the back burner. So, instead I made an appointment with the attorneys office, and have agreed to an interview that will be utilized to promote the forthcoming KABAM (Kingman Area Books Are Magic) festival on the libraries Youtube channel. For the coming week there are a lengthy list of projects that require my attention besides the day job that puts beans on the table and gas in the Jeep. Among these are developing a contingency plan for April in case the postponed federal jury selection results in me spending a week in Prescott, trying to figure out if I can (or should) make the trip to see dad in Michigan a part of the June trip or the October trip, and developing a game plan for the big event in Cuba. One last note for the day. Don’t forget our contest, and by all means don’t forget the Big Palooza being sponsored and promoted by 66 The Mother Road.